Don't be fooled by all the attention paid to "spring cleaning," says interior decorator and professional organizer Kathryn Bechen. Fall can be an even better time to get your home organized and in shape.
Clean and clear
Early fall is an ideal time to go through your wardrobe and kitchen cabinets selecting things for donation, says Donna Smallin, an organizing and cleaning guru whose most recent book is The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions (Storey, 2008). If you wait any longer, she says, the holidays will arrive and you won't get the donation done in time for the coming year's tax return.
Be tough, she says: Summer clothes and items that went unused this season really should go.
Interior designer Mallory Mathison advises bringing out heavier pottery pieces and baskets that will change the look of your kitchen, especially if you use them to display fall vegetables and fruits.
Sort through the remaining clutter that has accumulated all summer and get things put away. Then, Smallin says, clean everything that normally gets ignored, from light switches and light fixtures to door frames and kitchen cabinets. For an added facelift, touch up the paint around doors and windows. And use a smudge-remover to banish fingerprints.
Rugs and floors should be cleaned if you've had a lot of indoor/outdoor traffic. Bechen advises storing summer items you don't expect to use until next year in large plastic storage bins. If you choose opaque ones, rather than clear, label them to identify the contents.
Last, you can clean your home with products that are scented, and bring in woodsy fragrances with sprays and candles.
Sound daunting? "The thought of doing a whole big cleaning can be overwhelming," Smallin says, so "each day pick one thing that inspires you" and tackle that task.
Colors and textures
There are many creative ways to bring in the deep colors and textures of fall, Mathison says. Some are obvious: bed and bath linens, accent pillows, place mats, cloth napkins. But there are plenty of other opportunities for injecting fall colors.
"People think of slipcovers for summer, but you can slipcover a chair with chocolate brown velvet," Mathison says, and bring a cozy fall look into the room. She also loves "a pair of really worn-in, dark brown espresso leather pillows."
Mathison advises clients to swap out white lamp shades for warmer colored ones. "Say you have a black iron lamp," she says. "Using a toffee-colored linen shade looks so different than a white silk shade. And it casts a warmer glow."
She also brings a golden glow to picture frames and furniture using a product called "Rub n Buff," which gives a warm, burnished look.
And Mathison loves layering rugs at this time of year. "If you have something like a 9-by-12 seagrass rug," she says, "layer a slightly smaller rug on top" that has deeper colors and a cozy texture.
You can also add warm throw blankets over a sofa or chair.
"Look to what's happening in fashion" this time of year, Mathison says. "You're layering your house in the same way to feel cozy . . . pulling out a cable-knit cashmere throw the same way you'll pull out your sweaters."
Small, bold changes
Most of us don't have time to redecorate heavily each season, Bechen says. For maximum impact without too much work, she suggests focusing seasonal decorating on your front entryway and your dining table.
At the entryway, hang a fall wreath and add a seasonal welcome mat, Bechen says. Both are available in many styles, from simple to elaborate, and can help put your personal stamp on the space.
For your dining table, add a tablecloth and centerpiece in warm reds, golds and browns. But keep the centerpiece relatively simple, warns Bechen — a basket of pumpkins and gourds, for instance. That way, you can keep it in place while the family eats.
Seasonal decorating, she says, doesn't have to involve redecorating in every room. Better a handful of small but bold moves. "If you scatter it all throughout the space, it doesn't have the impact. You want it to pop."